After the Great Leap Forward

Qoros are not selling on looks and they are not selling on price. What then?

2014 Qoros side view

The 2014 Geneva expo had among its new car launches the Qoros 3 hatch, a variant of the Qoros 3 saloon. Founded in 2007, Qoros’ first car was presented at Geneva last year. This time around they have chopped some length off the car to woo customers in a lower price range.

The company is a joint venture between Israel Corporation and Chery Automotive; for a while the firm was called Chery Quantum Automotive but a new product demanded a new name, hence the change. Whilst you may have heard of Chery, you might not know so much about Israel Corporation.

They have interests in the Better Place electric vehicle venture but also own holdings in the chemicals, oil and shipping sectors. They appear to be providing capital more than engineering expertise.

2014 Qoros interior 1
So very 2008, but weren’t they the good old days?

What distinguishes Qoros is that rather than attempt to design and engineer the vehicle themselves, they have bought in extensive know-how from Germany to leap to a point where their first car is very nearly up to date, resembling a blend of ideas from VW and BMW from about five years ago.

Steyr in Graz supplied engineering and design wisdom, while consultant Semcon supplied detailed knowledge on craftsmanship at Qoros’ design centre in Munich. It is a very safe bet that the contractors contributing to Qoros cars’ development had extensive experience at all of the major German manufacturers and brought this to bear.

Magna Steyr interiors, Lear and Johnson Controls supply the interiors and Bosch, Visteon and Getrag are among those providing technical services related to electrics and powertrains. Microsoft have also chipped in for the infotainment systems.

2014 Qoros front
There remain questions about the grille: can it be removed?

What this means is that in the space of six or so years Qoros and their designers went from zero car to a finalised product that, questions of styling aside, seems to be competitive. Bear in mind that Hyundai’s Stellar (an ItalDesign effort) of the 80s was interesting chiefly for its laugh value, however misplaced, and it has taken three decades for Hyundai to get to being viewed as equal to Europe’s mid-ranking brands.

Length is on the vertical axis, price on the horizontal. The Qoros saloon is to the rightmost, daring to be differently priced.

I’ve plotted a graph of the Qoros saloon compared with some other vehicles in its class. The rough diagram shows the price (vertical axis) and length of several comparable cars. I could also have thrown in a few other native Chinese brands. However, to wade into the huge Chinese market and to try assessing its main features is a bit more than I can handle for now.

But as it stands we can see that the Qoros 3 is one of the larger vehicles (by 10 cm) but is notably more expensive. This is especially notable when you consider several of the competitors are throwing in a 1.8 litre engine while Qoros make do with a 1.6.

I had looked at Buick’s entrant in the small saloon market, the Excelle, and its price was 166,000 Y which indicated it was in an entirely different sector, so it’s not included here even if the dimensions and engine specification are comparable. The specification data indicate that Qoros have used some of the increased length for improving rear-passenger space in comparison with other vehicles in the same class.

Ford Focus saloon 4.48 m 104,800 Y
VW Jetta 4.52 m 107,800 Y
Mazda 3 saloon 4.59 m 112,800 Y
Chevrolet Cruze 4.59 m 108,900 Y
Citroen C4 saloon 4.58 m 107,800 Y
Peugeot 308 saloon 4.48 m 106,800 Y
Qoros 3 saloon 4.61 m 119,900 Y

Some of the price difference may be accounted for by the level of European engineering input which probably isn’t cheap. But the car appears to have been aimed at attaining the highest ratings for EuroNCAP and this is most likely where the real expense was incurred. It is, to use modern journalese, “safety-centric”.

This detail, rather then the 0-60 time of 9.7 seconds, the six speed gearbox or chromey grille*, is the selling point, as has been mentioned by other commentators. It was a brave move to present the car amidst the ranks of some very established brands which, if nothing else, shows real intent on Qoros’ part.

And at the rate they have gone from nothing very much to a credibly engineered hatch aimed straight at the most viciously fought-over sector ought to worry the laggards in the c-class. That means Peugeot, Fiat, Renault and Citroen if not Ford, Opel or VW. For the moment.

Perhaps the Qoros doesn’t have to compete with established players in Europe yet, but all it has to do is compete with indigenous brands in China and other emerging markets. This is not unlike the situation where you and another person are being chased by a bear: you only have to run faster than your acquaintance to survive. It looks as if Qoros might be trying to do the same.


*the front grille, of course

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

3 thoughts on “After the Great Leap Forward”

  1. In the context of the Zhonghua or Landwind (the first Chinese cars attempting to enter the German market), which failed in Europe mainly due to their catastrophic crash test performances, Qoros’ safety-centred approach is making an awful lot of sense. The Koreans also only began to be taken seriously once they weren’t considered inherently unsafe.

    And yet, despite this advancement over the course of less than a decade, I remain astonished by the lack of progress on the Chinese manufacturers’ side. Comparing it with the Japanese ascent since the 1960s, the Chinese really are moving at a snail’s pace.
    Maybe their domestic market is too huge to develop serious ambitions to export products…

    1. I think that is certainly the case Kris. It is a similar situation to the once dominant American market where cars were made to generate as much profit as possible while investing as little as one can. The Chinese have the benefit of low labour rates, an advantageous duty system and governance which requires foreign makers to co-develop models with a local partner if they seek to build in China. This affords them the luxury of building cars to a price rather than a standard. As Richard points out below, as this business model becomes less profitable as the market can afford a better quality product it needs to be changed to suit. Why would a Chinese manufacturer sell cars into a market like Europe where they need to spend lots of money on marketing or discounting when they can do neither at home and generate a better return?

  2. The Financial Times reported at the weekend that sales of indigenous Chinese brands have fallen while demand for foreign and Sino-foreign joint-developed cars have remained steady. One reason cited for the Chinese brands´ worsening sales is that their cars are not engineered sufficiently well. Qoros – I surmise- will avoid this pitfall to the extent that customers know that so much European engineering expertise was used. On balance, I have re-edited my text to emphasise this point.

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